Saudi Arabia is stumbling


Photo: In this 2013 photo, former Saudi King Abdullah stands next to his younger brother Salman bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud, who was crown prince at the time and is now king of Saudi Arabia. Tribes of the World/Flickr


Using its vast oil wealth, it has quietly spread its ultra-conservative brand of Islam throughout the Muslim world, secretly undermined secular regimes in its region and prudently kept to the shadows, while others did the fighting and dying. It was Saudi money that fueled the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, underwrote Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran, and bankrolled Islamic movements and terrorist groups from the Caucasus to Hindu Kush.

Today that circumspect diplomacy is in ruins, and the House of Saud looks more vulnerable than it has since the country was founded in 1926. Unraveling the reasons for the current train wreck is a study in how easily hubris, illusion, and old-fashioned ineptness can trump even bottomless wealth.

Stumbling over oil

The Kingdom’s first stumble was a strategic decision last fall to undermine competitors by upping oil production and, thus, lowering the price. Their reasoning was that, if the price of a barrel of oil dropped from over $100 to around $80, it would strangle competition from more expensive sources and new technologies, including the U.S. fracking industry, the Arctic, and emergent producers like Brazil. That, in turn, would allow Riyadh to reclaim its shrinking share of the energy market.

There was also the added benefit that lower oil prices would damage countries that the Saudis didn’t like: Russia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Iran.

In one sense it worked. The American fracking industry is scaling back, the exploitation of Canada’s oil sands has slowed, and many Arctic drillers closed up shop. And, indeed, countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, and Russia took a serious economic hit. But despite obvious signs, the Saudis failed to anticipate China’s economic slowdown and how that would dampen economic growth in the leading industrial nations. The price of oil went from $115 a barrel in June 2014 to $44 today. Because it is so pure, it costs less than $10 to produce a barrel of Saudi oil.

The Kingdom planned to use its almost $800 billion in financial reserves to ride out the drop in prices, but it figured that oil would not fall below $80 a barrel, and then only for a few months.

According to the Financial Times, in order to balance its budget, Saudi Arabia needs a price of between $95 and $105 a barrel. And while oil prices will likely rise over the next five years, projections are that the price per barrel will only reach $65. Saudi debt is on schedule to rise from 6.7 percent of GDP this year to 17.3 percent next year, and its 2015 budget deficit is $130 billion.

Saudi Arabia is spending $10 billion a month in foreign exchange reserves to pay the bills and has been forced to borrow money on the international financial market. Two weeks ago the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) regional director, Masood Ahmed, warned Riyadh that the country would deplete its financial reserves in five years unless it drastically cut its budget.

But the Kingdom can’t do that.

When the Arab Spring broke out in 2011, the Saudi Arabia headed it off by pumping $130 billion into the economy, raising wages, improving services and providing jobs for its growing population. Saudi Arabia has one of the youngest populations in the Middle East, a lot of it unemployed and much of it poorly educated. Some 25 percent of the population lives in poverty. Money keeps the lid on, but for how long, even with the heavy-handed repression that characterizes Saudi political life?

Stumbling over Yemen

In March, the Kingdom intervened in Yemen, launching an air war, a naval blockade, and partial ground campaign on the pretense that Iran was behind the civil war, a conclusion not even the Americans agree with.

Again, the Saudis miscalculated, even though one of its major allies, Pakistan, warned Riyadh that it was headed for trouble. In part, the Kingdom’s hubris was fed by the illusion that U.S. support would make it a short war – the Americans are arming the Saudis, supplying them with bombing targets, backing up the naval blockade, and refueling their warplanes in mid-air.

But six months down the line the conflict has turned into a stalemate. The war has killed 5,000 people, including 500 children, flattened cities, and alienated much of the local population. It has also generated a food and medical crisis, as well as creating opportunities for the Islamic State and al-Qaeda to seize territory in Southern Yemen. Efforts by the UN to investigate the possibility of war crimes were blocked by Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

As the Saudis are finding out, war is a very expensive business, a burden the Saudis could meet under normal circumstances, but not when the price the Kingdom’s only commodity, oil, is plummeting.

Stumbling over Syria

Nor is Yemen the only war that the Saudis are involved with. Riyadh, along with other Gulf monarchies, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, are underwriting many of the groups trying to overthrow Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. When anti-government demonstrations broke out in 2011, the Saudis – along with the Americans and the Turks – calculated that Assad could be toppled in a few months.

But that was magical thinking. As bad as Assad is, a lot of Syrians, particularly minorities like Shiites, Christians, and Druze, were far more afraid of the Islamists from al-Qaeda and the IS then they were of their own government. So the war has dragged on for four years and has now killed close to 250,000 people.

Once again, the Saudis miscalculated, though in this case they were hardly alone. The Syrian government turned out to be more resilient that it appeared. And Riyadh’s bottom line that Assad had to go just ended up bringing Iran and Russia into the picture, checkmating any direct intervention by the anti-Assad coalition. Any attempt to establish a no-fly zone will have to confront the Russian air force, not something that anyone other than U.S. presidential aspirants are eager to do.

The war has also generated a flood of refugees, deeply alarming the European Union, which finally seems to be listening to Moscow’s point about the consequences of overthrowing governments without a plan as to who takes over. There is nothing like millions of refugees headed in your direction to cause some serious re-thinking of strategic goals.

It’s a mess

The Saudis’ goal of isolating Iran is rapidly collapsing. The P5+1 – the U.S., China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Germany – successfully completed a nuclear agreement with Tehran, despite every effort by the Saudis and Israel to torpedo it. And at Moscow’s insistence, Washington has reversed its opposition to Iran being included in peace talks around Syria.

Stymied in Syria, mired down in Yemen, its finances increasingly fragile, the Kingdom also faces internal unrest from its long marginalized Shia minority in the country’s east and south. To top it off, the IS has called for the “liberation” of Mecca from the House of Saud and launched a bombing campaign aimed at the Kingdom’s Shiites.

Last month’s Hajj disaster that killed more than 2,100 pilgrims – and anger at the Saudi authorities foot dragging on investigating the tragedy – have added to the royal family’s woes. The Saudis claim 769 people were killed, a figure that no other country in the world accepts. And there are persistent rumors that the deadly stampede was caused when police blocked off an area in order to allow high-ranking Saudis special access to the holy sites.

Changes in the region

Some of these missteps can be laid at the feet of the new king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, and of a younger generation of aggressive Saudis he has appointed to key positions. But Saudi Arabia’s troubles are also a reflection of a Middle East in transition. Exactly where that it is headed is by no means clear, but change is in the wind.

Iran is breaking out of its isolation and, with its large, well-educated population, strong industrial base, and plentiful energy resources, is poised to play a major regional, if not international, role. Turkey is in the midst of a political upheaval, and there is growing opposition among Turks to Ankara’s meddling in the Syrian civil war

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is impaled on its own policies, both foreign and domestic. “The expensive social contract between the Royal family and Saudi citizens will get more difficult, and eventually impossible to sustain if oil prices don’t recover,” Meghan L. O’Sullivan, director of the Geopolitics of Energy project at Harvard told the New York Times.

However, the House of Saud has little choice but to keep pumping oil to pay for its wars and keep the internal peace. But more production drives down prices even further, and, once the sanctions come off of Iran, the oil glut will become worse.

While it is still immensely wealthy, there are lots of bills coming due. It is not clear the Kingdom has the capital or the ability to meet them.


Russian cruise missiles hits ISIS from Mediterranean and Caspian

Russian cruise missiles hits ISIS from Mediterranean and Caspian; 600 killed in one strike



© Vasily Botanov
The Russian military has launched cruise missiles against Islamic State positions in Syria from both the Mediterranean and Caspian seas, one of which killed over 600 terrorists in the Deir Ex-Zor Province, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has said.

“On November 20, the warships of the Caspian Fleet launched 18 cruise missiles at seven targets in the provinces of Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo. All targets were hit successfully,” he reported to President Vladimir Putin.

Overall, there are 10 warships taking part in the operation, six of which are in the Mediterranean.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) have been suffering huge losses as a result of the Russian offensive, Shoigu said, adding that data on the ground shows that the flow of terrorists arriving in Syria has decreased, while more and more militants are fleeing the warzone to head north and south-west.

Over the past four days, Russian air forces have conducted 522 sorties, deploying more than 100 cruise missiles and 1,400 tons of bombs of various types, the minister stated.

He added that a strike on a target in Deir ez-Zor utilizing multiple cruise missiles had killed more than 600 militants.

Shoigu stressed that the number of aircraft taking part in the operation has been doubled, and now consists of 69 jets conducting 143 sorties on a daily basis.

The minister pointed out that Russia is focused on destroying the terrorists’ economic base, having targeted 15 oil storage and refinery facilities as well as 525 oil trucks.

“We stopped supplies of 60,000 tons of oil per day to the black market and terrorists are losing $1.5 million daily,” Shoigu said.

Russia has also destroyed 23 jihadists training camps, 19 plants producing explosives, 47 ammunition depots, as well as many other targets, according to the minister.

In addition, Russia’s air campaign has provided significant support for Syrian government troops near Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia and Palmyra, he noted.

He also added that the Russian military has begun cooperating with its French counterparts, as ordered by President Putin.

The Defense Ministry has published a video showing Russian servicemen at the Khmeimim airbase in Syria writing ‘For our people’ and ‘For Paris’ on bombs that were later dropped on the terrorists.

“We have a lot of evidence that Russian airstrikes are effective,” Syrian Brigadier General Ali Maihub told Interfax.

“Russian mass airstrikes did irreparable damage to international terrorist organizations in Syria, disrupted their administration and financing systems and destroyed their bases and depots,” he added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov still maintains that Russia will not engage in a ground operation against the IS in Syria.

“There has been no discussion about a ground operation and there is still no discussion,” Peskov told reporters.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry have discussed in a phone conversation the need for a joint effort to combat Islamic State in Syria, as well as the necessity of launching talks between Damascus and the Syrian opposition, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

A US official said on Friday that Russia has given the US advance notice before airstrikes at least three times since the attacks in Paris, Reuters reports.

Kuwait Busts ISIS Cell Supplying Ukrainian Weapons To Syrian Terrorists

[(SEE:  Facts About Kh-55 Cruise Missile Sale to Iran and China Iran’s New Cruise Missile Originally Came From Ukraine Arms Black Market ; 20,000 Kalishnikovs Intercepted By Hellenic Coast Guard).]

Photo: IS Video /

Weapons for the “Islamic state” could buy in Ukraine

kommersant KOMMERSANT

This recognized leader cell Kuwaiti extremists

Citizen Lebanon Osama Mohammed Said Hayat, who was arrested the day before in Kuwait, admitted that Ukraine purchased man-portable air defense systems FN6, which are then sent through Turkey fighters of the terrorist organization “Islamic State” (IG; banned in Russia). This was reported by Western news agency with reference to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kuwait.

The cell of the “Islamic state” has been opened on the eve of the Kuwaiti security services. It is reported that she was standing at the head of a Lebanese citizen Osama Mohammed Said Hayat. It was he who coordinated the activities of the IG in Kuwait, recruiting new fighters, raise money for the continuation of jihad (and then they are transferred to the account of the IG supporters in Turkey), as well as organized the supply of weapons to the battlefield.

In particular, news agency AP with reference to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kuwait, was arrested conduct transactions relating to the procurement of arms, Ukraine. Agency AFP adds: it was a Chinese anti-aircraft missile complexes FN6, designed to destroy aircraft and helicopters at low altitudes. Based on the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry, they were purchased in Ukraine, and then transported to Syria through Turkey.

It is also reported that in addition to Lebanese leaders in the detection cell IG included three Syrians, one Egyptian and one Kuwaiti. Another four – two Syrians and two Australians of Lebanese descent – at the time of the arrest of members of the cell were outside Kuwait.

“Islamic State” is quite active in Kuwait. So, in June, a Sunni group, organized an explosion in the Shiite mosque of Imam al-Sadeq. The attack was carried out during Friday prayers. Killed 26 people, more than 200 injured. Suspected of involvement in the terrorist attack were found and convicted seven of them were sentenced to death, eight more suspected Islamists were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 2 to 15 years. Kuwait’s Court of Appeal make its verdict on the case on December 13.

There are many who sympathize with the Islamists. In November Kuwait’s Court has sentenced five defendants in the financing of the IG. For sending militants sum equivalent to $ 1.3 million, they received ten years’ imprisonment each.

On November 10, during a meeting in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah agreed to coordinate efforts in the fight against terrorism. The head of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the two countries’ positions on the Syrian issue coincide. “The decision of the Syrian crisis have common positions: as soon as possible to stop the fighting, to stop the bloodshed and immediately begin a political process between the government and all opposition groups,” – the minister said.

Ukrainian Defense Ministry denied the information about the sale of the representatives of the terrorist group “Islamic State” Chinese man-portable air defense systems FN6, the defense ministry said that such weapons do not have. “We can not sell or resell, or to perform any transactions regarding weapons. We are not a business entity, and in service, we do not have such weapons, “- said in a comment ” RIA Novosti “official representative of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Viktoria Kushnir on Friday.

Pavel Tarasenko

Russian Official Questions Sincerity of the American and French Anti-ISIS Bombing Campaign

Russian official calls into question the motives of the Americans and the French

to strike oil installations controlled by the organization “Daash” terrorist in Syria and Iraq



Moscow, (SANA)

Questioned Ilya Rogachev, director of the challenges and issues new threats in the Russian Foreign Ministry today in the motives behind the steering number of strikes oil installations Western countries under the control of the organization “Daash” terrorist in Iraq and Syria.

The news agency TASS ROGACHEV saying in an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant published today that “executing strikes led by the United States against Daash which is still ongoing for over a year now did not cause any real damage to infrastructure oil installations controlled by the terrorist organization which carried out 8,000 sorties In a quarter of cases, air planes returned to their positions without exhausting their ammunition under the pretext that there was no targets to hit her while organizing Daash continue extracting oil from the fields and start building new fields where oil transport trucks roam its region. “

Commenting on the strikes carried out by France against oil installations in Syria Russian official said that “the French jumping in this strike from the fact that their sense of inevitable victory of military operations of the Syrian army and the imperative to restore control of the oil fields to the Syrian government.”

Rogachev said that French aircraft are not similar strikes on terrorist targets in Iraq.

He added Rogachev “The Western experts drew attention to the ambiguity of the Western position in this regard,” noting that “the Americans might be woken after comments launched by political analysts and they have to strike at oil facilities in Iraq and it is impossible not to note that these steps were taken by the coalition forces under the influence of decisive and effective strikes carried out by the Russian Aviation “Was wondering coalition’s goal of causing a loss of actual military organization” Daash “terrorist.

He said: “It is because the experts noted last year that the organization Daash terrorist produced about 30 thousand barrels of oil per day, the figure now will be between forty to fifty thousand barrels,” pointing out that the UN Security Council Resolution 2199 stressed that oil trade illegal carried out by the “Daash” is his main source of funding and is therefore called on all nations to confront the phenomenon.

The Russian aviation began to carry out air operations on regulatory sites “Daash and Al-Nusra Front” terrorists in Syria on 30 last September at the request of Syria.

Saudi Arabia Imposing Own Plans of New Government on Syria

A general view shot taken on September 29, 2015, shows a neighbourhood in the Syrian capital Damascus

There are both government and opposition representatives on the list of figures for the new Syrian government proposed by Saudi Arabia, according to Randa Kassis, leader of the Movement for a Pluralistic Society.

Saudi Arabia is trying to impose on Syria its own plan for the transitional government, Randa Kassis, leader of the Movement for a Pluralistic Society, said Thursday.According to her, currently there are four lists of potential candidates to the Syrian opposition delegation for talks with the Syrian government.

“There are four lists, including one proposed by Russia, one proposed by Egypt, one by Saudi Arabia, and one by the US. Saudi Arabia did not submit its proposals, but it gave the names of the people it wants to be in the new government, including representatives of both the current authorities and opposition,” Kassis said at a press conference hosted by Rossiya Segodnya information agency in Moscow.

“Of course, Saudi Arabia is a significant player, but the Syrian people cannot let any other country – like Saudi Arabia – impose on us the entire cabinet,” she underscored.

A meeting between the Syrian government and an opposition delegation should be organized in a “neutral place,” Kassis added.

Participants of the international meeting on Syria in Vienna on Saturday agreed that the next round of talks between the government and opposition should take place before January 1, 2016. Within the next few months, the Syrian government and opposition should agree on the national unity government, and within 18 months the country should hold elections in accordance with a new constitution. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said in Vienna that participants of the talks would help the Syrian opposition form a delegation for further talks with the government.Syria has been engulfed in an armed conflict since March 2011. According to the UN, over 220,000 people have been killed. Government forces have been fighting against various militant groups, including the Islamic State (ISIL) terrorist group and al-Nusra Front.

African Islamists Renew War Against French Interests In Mali—Terrorists Seize Hotel, 170 Hostages

[SEE:  Imperialists prepare for war in Mali ;  SOCOM Manufactured French Invasion of Mali, Training the Man Behind the Coup ; France Makes First Move On Africa’s Resources, Sends Bombers and Troops To Mali Under Cover of “Humanitarian Intervention”]

Gunmen Take 170 Hostages in Hotel Attack in Mali, AFP Says

Bloomberg Business

Two gunmen took 170 hostages during an attack on the Hotel Radisson in the Malian capital, Bamako, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the hotel group.

“The attack is ongoing,” United Nations spokesman Olivier Salgado said by phone from the capital. “What we know is that the attackers are in the hotel and have automatic weapons.”

UN forces and Malian government troops are at the scene, he said. The French and U.S. embassies confirmed that the attack was under way.

Mali was plunged into violence after a military coup in March 2012 left a power vacuum that allowed Islamist militants to join with separatists and seize northern areas of the country. While French and UN forces pushed the militants out of most of those strongholds in 2013, the government is struggling to regain authority there.

Europeans Awakening To the Islamist Monster In Their Midst

crazy islamists

British Islamist activists detained in Hungary to be deported to UK


‘Islamist’ gunman kills two Bosnian soldiers in Sarajevo


Sweden admits it has been ‘naive’ over Islamist extremism


An overview of Germany’s Islamist scene


Belgium pledges security crackdown on Islamist violence